NEW YORK – A taxi driver may have to pay $25,000 after a judge said the cabbie refused to pick up passengers because they're black, passing them over for white riders while they watched.
Cabbie Baqir Raza "discriminated based on race and color" when he turned away Cynthia Jordan and her two daughters in October 2013, Administrative Law Judge Richard Kramer wrote in recommending the fine last month. It's subject to city Human Rights Commission approval.
Jordan, an accounting executive, and her adult and teen daughters were trying to get to a family birthday party when they spotted Raza's cab in midtown Manhattan. They testified at an administrative trial in February that the cab's "available" light was on, but Raza told them he was going off duty, according to the judge's recap.
Then Raza picked up two white women just 25 feet down the block, they said.
"Are you kidding me?" Jordan ran up and exclaimed, adding some coarse language out of anger, she testified.
"When someone just doesn't want to pick you up because of what you look like, it's not a good thing for my daughter to see," she testified. "(To) have to deal with things like this is not right."
Raza told the rights agency in a written response that the white women simply got in when another rider got out.
"It is unfair that I am in this current situation because of something I personally had no control over," he added, according to a filing earlier in the case.
But his own trip log showed the dropoff and pickup were about two minutes apart, and he admitted violating city taxi rules against unjustly refusing passengers and paid a $200 fine, Kramer noted. Local news site DNAInfo first reported his ruling.
No working telephone numbers for Raza's or Jordan's homes could immediately be found Thursday evening, and Raza didn't immediately respond to an email.
Complaints about race-based taxi refusals have percolated for years in New York and elsewhere.
"Lethal Weapon" actor Danny Glover filed a 1999 complaint with New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission saying several available cabs had passed him by. Hundreds of cabbies were accused of refusing passengers based on race, gender or other improper factors in a subsequent undercover crackdown.
Just last year, the taxi commission in Washington, D.C., launched a similar effort and said 84 passengers were improperly turned away.
Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report. Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.